The Supreme Court today asked LG Polymers India to approach the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to raise the issue regarding setting up of multiple committees to probe the May 7 gas leakage from its plant in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.
The company also questioned the NGT's jurisdiction in initiating proceedings on its own (suo motu) in the matter when the Andhra Pradesh High Court was already seized of the incident.
The leakage of hazardous gas, Styrene, happened early morning of May 7 from the company's plant at RR Venkatpuram village in Visakhapatnam resulting in the death of at least 11 people and impacting thousands more.
A bench headed by Justice UU Lalit was hearing through video-conferencing a plea filed by LG Polymers India Pvt Ltd against the May 8 order of the NGT which had taken up the matter suo-motu (on its own) on the basis of media reports about the gas leakage and set up a five-member committee to probe the incident.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the firm, told the bench that as per the NGT direction they have deposited the amount of Rs 50 crore.
"I am not trying to stall any proceeding," Mr Rohatgi told the bench, also comprising Justices MM Shantanagoudar and Vineet Saran.
He raised the issues regarding NGT's jurisdiction in initiating the suo motu proceedings in the case and also on setting up of multiple committees to probe into the incident.
Mr Rohatgi, while arguing that the state high court had gone into the matter in great detail, said that committees have been constituted by various forums including the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and there have been inquiries by pollution control board and the environment ministry as well.
"This is an environmental issue," the bench said.
The court, which said it would keep the matter pending, asked the firm to approach the NGT and apprise the tribunal about the developments in the case.
The bench, which posted the matter for hearing on June 8, granted liberty to the firm to move the NGT.
On May 8, the NGT had slapped an interim penalty of Rs 50 crore on the firm and sought response from the Centre and others in the gas leak incident saying "there appears to be a failure to comply with the said Rules and other statutory provisions".
The tribunal had set up a five-member committee, headed by former Andhra Pradesh High Court judge Justice B Seshasayana Reddy, to probe into the incident in the plant and submit a report before May 18.
The committee has to submit report on sequence of events, causes of failure and persons and authorities responsible, extent of damage to life among others.
A major early morning chemical leak from the polymer plant had impacted villages in 5-km radius, leaving many people dead and scores of citizens suffering from breathlessness and other problems.
The leak was noticed by company staff who were reportedly inspecting machines to restart the factory and raised an alarm. Hours after the styrene gas leak around 2.30 am on May 7 from the plant at the village, scores of people could be seen lying unconscious on sidewalks, near ditches and on the road, raising fears of a major industrial disaster.